Unless COVID-19 is eradicated, the fight to develop vaccines might go on indefinitely. Pfizer says it is looking into two separate ways to provide protection against new and more infectious COVID variants, especially the one first detected in South Africa, CNBC reports. Board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the company is investigating whether a third shot of the current vaccine will provide extra protection against variants. He says Pfizer and partner BioNTech are also investigating whether the formulation can be modified to make the vaccine "protective no matter what the virus manages to do against itself. Pfizer says it has started a study of the effectiveness of a third dose involving 144 people who received two doses of its vaccine in early trials that started almost a year ago, Axios reports.
"While we have not seen any evidence that the circulating variants result in a loss of protection provided by our vaccine, we are taking multiple steps to act decisively and be ready in case a strain becomes resistant to the protection afforded by the vaccine," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a press release. He tells NBC that the company's goal is to be able to produce a modified vaccine within 100 days of a new coronavirus variant emerging. "Every year, you need to go to get your flu vaccine," Bourla says. "It's going to be the same with COVID. In a year, you will have to go and get your annual shot for COVID to be protected." Moderna said earlier this week that it is testing a vaccine tweaked to provide more protection against the South African variant and is also looking into the effects of a third dose. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)